VT-shaped people prioritize purpose-driven engagement with a combination of disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary capacities.
Virginia Tech is set apart from other land-grant universities with not only its historical emphasis on outreach and application of knowledge, but also its commitment to communities and service to society. An education from Virginia Tech goes beyond the “T” shape by incorporating elements of Ut Prosim and the land-grant mission to create a “VT-shaped individual.”
The challenges of the future require the capacity to work in interdisciplinary teams, engage in critical and creative thinking, collaborate with diverse people, communicate effectively, and conduct oneself with a deep sense of ethics. Students at all levels will be mentored to develop a knowledge base and skills while they are immersed in a culture that unifies multiple disciplines in a field of study within the context of these crucial values.
Emerging from this work is the notion of a “purpose-driven and person-centered” curricular design. A Virginia Tech education will engage the whole person and through inclusive connections contribute to the value of each person and to the groups in which they participate. Beyond Boundaries envisions significant changes in Virginia Tech curricula to reflect the belief that students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels will want to shape their own course of study. A flexible approach enables students and faculty to be purpose-driven in curricular design and research, thus addressing the complex needs of communities and society at large as they arise.
Virginia Tech will place graduates on a path toward becoming global citizens. Inclusive communities—which exhibit a lifelong commitment to understanding, empathizing with, and learning from diverse collaborators—are central to this trajectory. Curricula and organizational structures or incentives must allow space for culturally-enriching global experiences, faculty engagements, and institutional partnerships.
We will challenge existing financial and educational approaches in ways that will affect our real costs. Virginia Tech students will be able to find new, multiple, and variable sources of support to fund their education, including organizations that fund tuition in return for service before or after graduation.
Communities of Discovery advance organizational networks and engage the university in ideas that matter.
Knowing that learning comes alive when theoretical concepts or principles are observed in practice, learning communities will be integrated into curricular design. Communities of Discovery flip the traditional instructional model where course driven learning is at the core and experiential learning is peripheral. Experiential learning wrapped around an issue, problem, or topic of the community will become the core of the educational experience, with the traditional course instruction supporting that work.
The place, focus, and direction of these communities will evolve over time. Regardless of what shape they take—professional communities, topical communities, or problem-based communities—their communal needs inform curricula with a feedback loop enriching the learning experience. The physical and virtual environments of campus, whether in our existing facilities or in new operations around the world, will be designed to support human-to-human interactions, emerging pedagogy, flexible learning, cutting-edge research, and the unique mission of Virginia Tech.
Continuously advancing information and communication technologies will enable connections that will obviate the need for place-bound learning or research. In future decades, virtual faculty, student, mentor, or work relationships will be as rich and effective as current face-to-face interpersonal experiences. Within digitally enabled human-centered smart environments we will experiment, prove ideas, and learn from failures.
Engaging the world does not necessarily mean significantly increasing Virginia Tech’s permanent physical footprint. Global engagement hubs will be distributed around the world supporting engagements of weeks or months or years, depending on the time scale of the problem under consideration. The hubs will be integrated with local communities and, in some cases, dependent upon local support.
Now and in the future, there will be multiple partnerships at different levels that support students, faculty, departments, and other university units. An even greater variety of engaged industries will be required to tackle, and fund, the world’s most complex problems through education and applied research. The Virginia Tech graduate will be so valuable that employers will willingly contribute to the cost of their education in exchange for future service.
NExus of Discovery
Nexus of Discovery extends beyond current disciplinary boundaries to form a living laboratory that will project Virginia Tech to the world and bring the world to Virginia Tech.
Higher education institutions provide intergenerational transfer of knowledge organized around disciplines. This purpose will be the same in the next generation. One limitation of such an arrangement, however, is that we tend to apply an academic or institutional lens to complex problem solving without considering the broader context. As we move into the next generation, we will advance from a disciplinary-based university structure to a distributed university structure by better integrating disciplinary excellence for the resolution of complex problems. In 2047, Virginia Tech will project its talents to the world and in tandem view the world as an extended campus.
Situated in a problem context, disciplinary boundaries stretch and overlap to meet the demands of the given domain. This intersection of disciplinary excellence is where strengths are formed that address problems related to improving the human condition. These strengths are so compelling that Virginia Tech is a primary destination for students and faculty wishing to pursue work in these areas.
Virginia Tech’s success in these endeavors relies upon academic exceptionalism. Virginia Tech seeks to grow in its value to students and society such that it is recognized among the top 100 global universities. A diverse pool of highly qualified talent—students, faculty, and staff—drawn from all corners of the planet is a requirement to realize this aspirational position.
Virginia Tech must continue developing as a global land-grant university while applying its frame of reference to an increasingly interconnected economy. As Virginia’s flagship land-grant institution, the best way for Virginia Tech to serve Virginians is to acknowledge that a global perspective is required to help citizens and companies compete internationally and to help address our own complex problems locally.
Focused excellence will not only attract top-notch students, scholars, and international brand recognition, but also increase philanthropic gifts and funded research projects. By enhancing the Virginia Tech brand through wise stewardship, high-quality education, world-class research, and influential public engagement, Virginia Tech will achieve and sustain international recognition.
Through these concepts, Virginia Tech is poised to confront the changing future. Two resounding themes of this effort are dynamism and agility—characteristics not often used to describe higher education institutions in the traditional context. In order to achieve the environment we have outlined in this work, however, institutional structures will have to evolve to meet new demands. We will continuously innovate to evolve.
A culture of self-evaluation and innovation requires both bold ideas and resources. Beyond Boundaries see these two ingredients advancing hand-in-hand. To be sure, some of the anticipated changes will be costly, including new technologies, international experiences, and scaled-up engagement opportunities. We welcome the opportunity to examine our current investments—monetary and nonmonetary—and allocate resources based on educational impact.
Indeed, the vision of the Beyond Boundaries committees present significant, yet worthwhile, upheavals in our current system. We will require new metrics to evaluate the success of concepts that have otherwise been routine and embedded in the university culture.
This process has just begun…